Over the past two decades, the growth of lacrosse in the state of Florida has been as strong as virtually any other part of the country. From the rise of new collegiate programs to the sanctioning of the game at the high school level, Florida reflects wonderful growth in virtually all corners of the state.

That growth, supported in part by resources and grants from US Lacrosse, even extends to southeast Florida, where sports like football, baseball, and soccer have long been the staples. Recent transplant Jenna Martino-DiFede, who moved to Miami just over two years ago, is eager to keep building on the lacrosse momentum started by others, especially among girls in the region. 

Almost immediately upon moving to Miami, Martino-DiFede, a former collegiate player and coach, began doing private lessons. That led to volunteer coaching opportunities with some of the local high school teams. 

Ironically, it was the shutdown of activities from the COVID-19 pandemic that led Martino-DiFede to the next step – starting a new club program.

“I saw that so many of the kids that I had gotten to know wanted to play,” she said. “I had wanted to start a club program since I arrived in Miami, so there was no time like the present. Once I decided to move forward, it came together really quickly.”

Martino-DiFede launched the Miami Sol, a new club team for high school girls, in September, and is hands-on as the team’s coach. With plenty of talented athletes across the region, many of whom are eager to be back on the field, she has found that the roster was easy to fill. In fact, she quickly added a second team.

“I didn’t want to turn anybody away,” Martino-DiFede said.

With approximately 50 girls divided across two teams, the Sol features a mix of players with varied levels of experience. Some play for the high school teams that Martino-DiFede has worked with, while others are relative newcomers to the sport.

“There are a ton of amazing athletes in Miami, although many don't know much about lacrosse,” Martino-DiFede said. “But I have learned that as soon as I can get kids to try it out, they love it.”

The Miami Sol teams feature a mix of players who are united through their shared passion for the game. The roster reflects the diversity of the region, including many players with Hispanic roots.
 
“The great thing about Miami is that it's a huge melting pot of people, from all types of backgrounds, races, and ethnicity,” she said. “We have a huge opportunity to introduce our sport to so many different people.”

For now, the Miami Sol team is just the beginning of Martino-DiFede’s lacrosse crusade. She is also planning on offering free clinics in different areas of the city, and forming some girls’ feeder programs at younger age levels to support the high school club team.

“I would love to help introduce the game to athletes starting at the younger age levels,” she said. “There isn't much opportunity for kids to play before high school, especially for girls. I want to show them how much opportunity the game can bring them, like it really did for me. Lacrosse opened a huge door for me to college.” 

Growing up in Oceanport, N.J., Martino was a three-sport athlete at Shore Regional High School before moving on to play lacrosse at St. Joseph’s University. As a Hawk, she became a two-time All-Atlantic 10 first team selectee and finished her SJU career ranked second in career goals (154) and third in points (192). Martino also set the team’s single-season record of 57 goals in 2009, a mark that still stands.

Martino then spent three years as a college assistant coach at FDU-Florham and one season at New Hampshire before transitioning into the business world. It was her move to South Florida in 2018 that reignited her lacrosse pilot light.

One of Martino-DiFede’s first steps upon moving to Miami was to help create a larger profile for lacrosse. Naturally, in today’s culture, that means leveraging social media. Her Instagram account (@laxinthe305) is all about showcasing the game and highlighting its local presence.

“After posting for just a few months, it caught on quickly and I now have a large following from all over the world,” Martino-DiFede said. “I get such positive messages from players, parents and coaches about how much they appreciate what I am doing. This feedback really helps keep me motivated to continue what I have started to build, and also drives me to continue to inspire and help build the local community here in Miami.”

While there’s plenty of work still ahead, including finding more coaches to support the growth, the good news for Martino-DiFede is that she is seeing progress. The Miami lacrosse community may be relatively small, but she says that its trending in the right direction.

“I have met some great people who have really helped the game grow here, but I’ve also learned that the sport is still new to a lot of people," she said. "Miami lacrosse is small but growing.”